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1.5.1.  The information deficit of the European Union

    The absence of a common information policy results in the information deficit of the European Union, i.e. a deficiency of reliable information, readily available to the citizens, concerning European affairs and the integration process. Due to the information deficit, most citizens ignore or take for granted the positive and palpable effects of European integration, such as the customs free availability of goods from all over Europe, border free travel and, above all, peace and friendship among their erstwhile bellicose nations. They are unaware of the extent to which they are surrounded by the workings of the Union in their daily and professional lives [see sections 10.1 and 10.4].

    It is strange to see that the Member States, which have developed a great number of common policies in all fields examined in this site, have neglected to set up a common policy for presenting the goals and measures of those policies to their citizens. The neglect of information and/or communication is probably due to a bad habit carried over from the early days of European integration, when the common policies under development were too technical to really interest the citizens. Now, however, the citizens feel that the Union is influencing their lives and regret to be left in the dark by the European institutions and by their own political leaders as to its workings. They show their indignation about this state of affairs in European elections, referendums and opinion polls. The information deficit is, indeed, more responsible for the estrangement of the citizens from the European integration process than the much decried democratic deficit [see sections 9.5 and 10.1]. It is also worsening even as the integration process is deepening and encompassing an ever-growing number of economic, societal and political sectors.

    The information deficit endangers the integration process. If the majority of the media adopt attitudes different from the majority of the political elite of a nation, concerning the issue of integration or particular aspects of it, this may lead to a different stance of the majority of the public from that of the majority of the political elite of the nation. We may thus have the following antidemocratic phenomenon: the popular media transforming the political consensus existing among the democratically elected leaders of a nation, concerning the major political issues discussed at European level [see section 9.5], into a public opinion dissent on those issues, orchestrated by non-elected opinion leaders (media tycoons, trendy journalists, popular television speakers, etc.) and/or a vociferous minority (party, movement or union).

    In a community of people, where a silent majority has no interest in the common affairs and goals, while a determined minority is strongly opposed to its objectives and institutions, there is a high probability that the minority group would tend to grow over time and to become stronger and ever more convinced of its ideas and ideals. Unopposed by the silent majority, it might thus eventually succeed in reversing the working system that holds the community together. If European citizens were led to believe that the disadvantages of European integration were greater than its benefits, they might be led to press their political leaders to disengage their country or countries from the integration process or, worse, to halt this process altogether and return to the ante-integration status; i.e. the situation where each European state would be fighting for its interests against all others in the adverse environment of globalisation and each, in turn, would be falling easy prey to the ''divide and rule'' techniques of non-European superpowers naturally promoting their own interests. If we consider the effects of the information deficit on some referenda, in the past (the Danish concerning the Treaty of Maastricht, the Irish concerning the Treaty of Nice, the French and Dutch concerning the Constitutional Treaty and the Irish again concerning the treaty of Lisbon), this scenario is not as absurd as it seems at first sight.

    Not only all governments but also all major political parties, which are generally pro-integration, should recognize that the information deficit combined with a systematic disinformation on the part of some europhobic media is undermining the common policies that they want to carry through, is debasing the democratic institutions set up and empowered by them to implement those common policies and is halting the progress of European integration. In other words, the political elite should acknowledge that a common information policy, which might have been a luxury as long as the integration process was confined to customs and technical matters, is a necessity now that the process is spreading ever more from the purely economic to the political field. Just as the Union is incorporating ten more Member States, whose citizens are even less informed about the goals, the means and the achievements of the integration process than the citizens of the erstwhile Fifteen, it is high time for the European institutions to forsake the old habits of discretion and neglect of the citizens' opinion. In chapter 10 we called for the inauguration of a common information and communication policy, covering all the activities of the European institutions and implemented by a European Press Agency in close cooperation with the governments of the Member States [see section 10.1.3]. Such a common communication policy, combined with the civic education of young Europeans at school, would bring the citizens closer to the Union and would secure the achievements of all the other common policies.

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    Your roadmap in the maze of the European Union.

    Based on the book of Nicholas Moussis:
    Access to European Union law, economics, policies

    Translated into 14 languages

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